With the sofa season soon upon us, here are five food documentaries you can find on Netflix and Vimeo to feed your hunger for challenging our food system.
For better or worse, TV has altered our perceptions of food. The latest mini series and feature-length films about the implications of mass food production call for a revision of what we put on the dinner table. Segmented, as they are, by adverts of healthy smiling children frequenting a fast food joint.
The thing is, there’s never too much to be learned about the modern food system, and how it can be changed. And that change starts with us. Whether you’ve ever wondered about how profit-driven supermarkets exploit small family businesses, or how much big food corporations really care about tackling the obesity crisis, these are the food documentaries you should watch. Even, in some cases, if it requires a pinch of salt or two.
The Moo Man (2013)
America’s insatiable appetite for food, TV, and food on TV means food documentaries from outside the US lose out on the exposure. One exception is British-made film The Moo Man, which follows Sussex raw milk producer Steve Hook of Hook & Son (commonly found set up at the odd London farmer’s market). Without giving too much away, the story follows Steve and his close bond with his herd of Friesians. All while avoiding the pressures to conform with unforgiving supermarket price points.
Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret (2014)
By name and nature, Cowspiracy is based on – and has contributed to – a topic wrought with controversy. The film’s main reservation – that farmed animals account for the majority of the world’s output of harmful gas emissions – is questionable (it’s based on a single non-peer reviewed study). But it does raise a valid point: That the industrial farm industry is way out of control, and we and the environment are suffering for it.
Michael Pollan, well known for his infatuation with domestic science and dismay towards the mass production of our food, issues a call-to-arms with Cooked. He proposes a return to kitchen order, where bread for example is baked not on the assembly line but by hand and dough hook, with the ultimate aim of restoring balance in the world’s quality and distribution of food.
Food, Inc (2008)
This Oscar-nominated documentary, featuring narration from Eric Schlosser and Michael Pollan, which spent three years in the making, takes aim at the ramifications of agribusiness. It suggests how E. coli, manufactured in the cow’s stomach, is a result of feeding cattle on grain rather than pasture. It depicts the extent of maltreatment at a conventional chicken farm stuck in its ways because of its obligations to over-produce. It looks at how the profits of major food labels and regulators are based on the production of cheap, contaminated meat processed by exploited undocumented immigrants. Few other documentaries answer the question ‘where does our food come from?’ so well.
What The Health (2017)
Another film by Kip Andersen, maker of Cowspiracy, and another pulled into question. The film follows the premise that consuming meat and dairy is linked to health problems, which is then allegedly remedied by health organisations – remedies which are supposedly actually keeping us in ill health. While it’s common knowledge eating meat in large quantities will, like anything else, not do much good to your well-being, doctors, nutritionists, and investigative journalists have accused the film’s makers for cherry-picking facts to suit their discourse. All being said, What The Heath can’t be ignored for calling attention to the root of the problem – profit-driven food industries and their accountability for perpetuating obesity and overconsumption.
Seen a cracking food doc we’ve missed here? Share all about it in the comments below.